Parashas Vayikra

Sefer Vayikra begins with the following statement: “And He called to Moshe, and Hashem spoke to him from the Tent of Meeting ….” The Midrash expounds (Vayikra Rabbah 1:4):
It is written in Tehillim 89:20: “Then You spoke in a vision to Your devout ones.” This verse is referring [homiletically] to Moshe, to whom Hashem communicated though speech and through visions. As it is written (Bamidbar 12:8): “Mouth to mouth I speak to him, in a clear vision and not in riddles.” The phrase “Your devout ones” alludes to Moshe’s being a member of the tribe of Levi, along the lines of Devarim 33:8: “Of Levi he said, ‘Your Urim and Your Tumim befit Your devout one.” The verse in Tehillim 89:20 continues: “And You said, ‘I have placed [My] aid upon the mighty one, I have raised high the one chosen from among the people.’” This is along the lines of what R. Tanchum bar Chanilai said: “In the workings of the world, a load that is too hard for one person can be carried by two, and a load that is too hard for two people can be carried by four. Or perhaps we should say that a load that is too hard for 600,000 can be carried by one. For the entire Jewish People stood at Sinai and said (Devarim 5:22), ‘If we continue to hear the voice of Hashem our God any longer, we will die!’ Yet Moshe heard the Divine voice by himself and lived. Know that this is so, for among all of them, the Divine voice called only to Moshe, as it is written, ‘And He called to Moshe.’” We can see that the phrase “the one chosen from among the people” refers to Moshe, for it is written (Tehillim 106:23): “If not for Moshe, his chosen one.”
The Maggid sets out to explain this Midrash, linking it to a statement Hashem made to Moshe at Sinai (Shemos 19:9): “Behold, I am going to come to you in a thick cloud, in order that the people will hear as I speak with you, and also will believe in you forever.” He brings out the message with a parable. In one of the cities under the rule of an important minister, the minister had a special friend whom he cherished and esteemed greatly. This friend could speak all the languages that the minister himself could speak. Once the minister visited the city, and all the city’s residents went out to greet him, among them the minister’s special friend. The minister looked at the crowd and saw his friend, and began speaking to him in Spanish, the language the people in the city spoke. The minister’s friend was very surprised. He asked him: “Why are you speaking to me in Spanish, rather than in some other language such as Arabic or French? You know that I speak all the languages you do.” The minister replied: “You should know that by speaking to you here in Spanish, I showed how much I cherish you. If I spoke to you in some other language, say Arabic, the people here wouldn’t recognize my fondness for you. They would figure I was more comfortable speaking in Arabic, and I chose specifically to speak to you because you are the only one here who speaks that language. But since I started off speaking in Spanish, and still I spoke only with you and not with any of them, they all understand that I chose to speak specifically with you and no one else because you are dearer to me and more esteemed in my eyes than any of them.”
We can now understand the meaning of Hashem’s statement to Moshe at Sinai. Hashem was telling Moshe that when He speaks to him at the mountain, He would speak on the people’s level, in a way they could understand, so that they would recognize how close the two of them were. And then they would believe in Moshe forever. Likewise, we can now understand the Midrash with which we began. The Midrash quotes Hashem’s statement that He spoke to Moshe “mouth to mouth, in a clear vision and not in riddles.” That is, Hashem communicated with Moshe in ordinary language, not in some esoteric manner that the Jewish People could not understand. As the Midrash in Shemos Rabbah 5:9 states, expounding on David HaMelech’s statement that the voice of Hashem comes in power (Tehillim 29:4), Hashem’s voice manifested itself to each Jew according to his power of comprehension. Nonetheless, when the Divine voice emanated from the Tent of Meeting, it called only to Moshe.
David Zucker, Site Administrator

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